Paypal don’t endorse our Papal Visit Fun.

It might have had over 4000 unique visitors in a few days, and generated a serious bit of buzz on Twitter, but our Social media experiment based on a spoof website for the Papal Visit, hasn’t gone down well with Paypal.

The site in question can be found here – (be quick, it’ll be gone soon!), and as explained on an earlier blog post  it was simply a bit of fun, combined with a test of Twitter’s capability to turn “nothing” into something Viral!

However.. just days after it went live, we received an official email from “EBay Enforcement”..  A summary of which is below:

PayPal, Inc. (“PayPal”) does not permit use of its trademarked name PAYPAL in a domain name. 

Such use is in violation of international intellectual property regulations and the trademark laws of many countries worldwide

Additionally, arbitrary use of the word PAL in a domain is problematic if the connected website is used in association with a business making use of PayPal or operating in the same sphere of business as PayPal.

While PayPal respects your right of expression and your desire to conduct business on the Internet, PayPal must enforce its own rights in order to protect its valuable and famous trademark. For these reasons, and to avoid consumer confusion, PayPal must insist that you not use the domain name for any purpose, do not sell, offer to sell or transfer the domain name to a third party, and instead simply let the domain registration expire.  

eBay Inc.
Legal Department


Rather than just “do as we were told”, we actively tried to engage with Paypal/Ebay and tried to clarify that the site was not a phishing site, nor a spam site, not trying to rip off Paypal (or the Pope!) in any way.  It was just a bit of fun, and we pointed them to the blog above!

Unfortunately, they didn’t change their opinion, and came back with:

While we have no desire to interfere with your legitimate business purposes, we cannot allow the use of a domain which contains the registered PayPal trademark, which could lead to confusion or dilution of the PayPal trademark itself.

The content of the site should not contain any unauthorized use of any of PayPal’s Intellectual Property such as trademarks or copyrights. The site currently contains the PayPal Logo, which is not allowed.


So I’m afraid that the site as we know it will vanish into cyberspace history. Yes, we could modify it, change the domain name, remove the branding that is “based on” the Paypal logo etc etc etc, but really what’s the point.  It was an experiment based on the “here and now”, and it’s perhaps fitting that it ends just as quickly as it arrived.

A few comments from Twitter:

always new the Vatican never had a sense of humour 🙂

I would take them on Gary – the publicity would be massive 🙂 – the legal costs would not be low though – bummer. Lol

Ridiculous, as you were providing them with free publicity! At least Catholics saw the funny side when Ebay didn’t.

Pathetic response from PayPal, no sense of humour, but then not surprised as they have the worst customer service on Earth.

fwiw, you have legal protection for use of the name there. Arkell v Pressdram is probably rather relevant.

Oops! You can’t use the word Pal?! Crazy.

Nice one Gary, maybe it’s better than it dies in this furore, at least you get some exposure out of it! idiots!

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4 Responses to “Paypal don’t endorse our Papal Visit Fun.”

  1. Ronnie

    So if I put up a spoof web site called NSDesignVisit and use all your intellectual property you’d be happy? Or if you did the same thing with a client’s IP? I notice this very page says “web design copyright 2008 NSDesign Ltd”. Is that just for fun, or would you defend your IP in court?

  2. Gary

    Ronnie – fair point. However. being 100% honest here.. if someone “spoofed” us and it was clear there was no malice, or fraudulant intentions, and indeed – clear that it was all in good fun, with no harm (or negative opinion) to us… then I’d welcome it. Not seek to have it removed. This “experiment” was gaining some serious momentum on Twitter etc, and Paypal had an opportunity to benefit from this, by joining in the fun (and we know they were watching – so easily could have), and playing along. I seriously doubt that what we did had any negative impact on their brand, their reputation, or their place in the world.

  3. John Clark

    I did not see your spoof site and only read about it via your recent newsletter, my misfortune to miss out on a good laugh.

    While I can fully understand eBay Inc wishing to protect their brand identity, your activity clearly presented their legal eagles with a more “hittable” target that would toe their line and shut down. Meanwhile organised crime continues to flourish through spoof e-mails to the unwitting who input their sensitive data and find their bank accounts emptied. I’m not sure thwey are pursued so vigorously – but then they don’t provide proper contact details on their spoof sites.

    It does prove that really big business loses its sense of humour very quickly.

  4. white knight tumble dryer


    I think big business only has a sense of humour if it’s going to sell more of their product… Paypal is notorious for causing all kinds of problems to people, yet it’s still the biggest and most successful of its kind. As for the organised crime problem, I wish we’d get more a program going to inform people how to avoid it, it would be effective and surely not that hard to carry out..